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New Bill Sponsored by House Speaker Kotek Would Decriminalize Homelessness

The bill comes after Grants Pass police last year arrested people for sleeping outside.

House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) introduced a bill this week for which she is sole sponsor to address a contentious issue in Oregon and nationally: the criminalization of homelessness.

House Bill 3115 would prohibit towns and cities from arresting or citing people for sleeping outside when no alternatives are available.

The new bill follows litigation in Grants Pass last year over whether that city could cite people for sleeping in city parks. Civil rights lawyers challenged such arrests, and a federal judge agreed with them. The case echoes a high-profile federal ruling in Martin v. City of Boise, which found people could not be punished for sleeping outside unless they were offered sufficient alternative shelter.

Kotek's spokesman, Danny Moran, says the bill grew out of extensive consultation with local governments.